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Student Spotlight | James Chow

The SJSU Lurie College of Education provides a range of grants to students to support their academic endeavors to become transformative educators, counselors, therapists, and leaders.  We spoke with SJSU Lurie College of Education Communicative Disorders and Sciences student James Chow, who received support to conduct research on alternative methods to help people with aphasia communicate with their medical providers.  Listen to James’ insights below!

“Something challenging or surprising that I’ve seen and experienced this year working with this project is just how little resources we have for adults in geriatrics with these types of communicative disorders such as like aphasia or dementia. It’s also been really neat to be able to be in the front lines in the research clinic downstairs, where these adults are experiencing the same kind of issues like, “They just took away my driver’s license, how do I combat that?” or, “I don’t know what my doctor is telling me like I want to participate in that”.   Being able to see all these real challenges that they’re having makes me want to pursue this further.”

Can you introduce yourselves to our listeners?
My name is James Chow. I’m a first year graduate student studying Speech Language Pathology here at SJSU.
Can you provide a brief description of the research project that you are working on?  Why did you want to pursue this research project?
Me and my faculty have been interested in creating some kind of tool or some kind of modality where we can help people with aphasia communicate with medical providers.  This has been important to me because as someone who’s had a family member who has had aphasia, who’s had a stroke, they have not been able to participate in any of their medical decisions because of “lack of competency” from either the physician telling them or maybe a family member saying oh, they’re not able to make the decision for them.  In reality, aphasia is just a language disorder that’s caused by brain damage rather than intellectual impairment.
What has your project consisted of thus far?  What do you have left to accomplish before the end of the school year?
So far this project has consisted of lots of literature review and becoming familiar with the current tools that are out there right now for people with aphasia.  Right now I’m focusing on three different types of tools and games that center around making a decision making atmosphere more friendly and more conversational rather than slamming you with situations like ‘what do you want to do when you are in a coma?’  So far, other than the literature reviews and becoming familiar with the other tools out there, we are constructing some interview questions for people with aphasia, as well as for their caregivers, about how we can help support them during these types of difficult decision-making processes.  Our next step is to create these interview questions and then implement them with around 10 to 15 participants.  After that, our final step is to create this toolkit or this game that will help them with decision making for legal questions or any other medical affairs.
Who is your faculty mentor?  What has your working relationship with them been like?
My faculty member is Dr. Nidhi Mahendra.  She is the current chair for the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders. She just took on this role at the beginning of this school year.  Prior to that, she was a professor here and she also ran the Spartan Aphasia Research Clinic downstairs.  I was lucky enough to volunteer in that clinic as an undergrad and she has been so influential in how I am growing as a student and how my interests have grown and deepened into the field of adult geriatrics, aphasias, dementias, and these all these acquired disorders.  She’s been super supportive and she always gets her research assistance opportunities to grow and attend different types of conferences and meetings to help expand our view on the topics.
Can you share an experience that you’ve had with this project so far that has been surprising, significant, challenging, reassuring, etc.?
Something challenging or surprising that I’ve seen and experienced this year working with this project is just how little resources we have for adults in geriatrics with these types of communicative disorders such as like aphasia or dementia. It’s also been really neat to be able to be in the front lines in the research clinic downstairs, where these adults are experiencing the same kind of issues like, “they just took away my driver’s license, like how do I combat that?” or “I don’t know what my doctor is telling me like I want to participate in that”.  Being able to see all these real challenges that they’re having makes me want to pursue this further because, while these are mainly medical situations, I hope to extend this out to other departments as well such as legal issues with police, issues with the DMV, or other affairs like that.
How has this opportunity overall shaped you going forward?
Being able to just get this grant has been a really neat opportunity because I always thought I wouldn’t have time to do this I have to work part time as well as with a grad school, which is I’m sure you all probably know is really, really, really tough.  Being able to get this grant and able to have such supportive faculty has allowed me to dabble in different areas such as research, which is something that I’d never thought I’d be able to do.  It’s such a blessing because I don’t have to work as much because of the grant and I’m having guidance from faculty that I know I’ll continue having for the rest of my professional career.
I want to let everyone know that you can do great things. Explore different opportunities no matter what kind of university setting you’re in, whether in college, community college, a private university, whatever you want, wherever you’re at, you can pursue anything.

Connect with Lurie College at https://linktr.ee/sjsulurie to receive more news about academic and student life!  Audio recorded by Brian Cheung Dooley.  “Adventure” provided royalty free by bensound.com. Interview transcription provided by otter.ai and edited by Sydney Ahmadian.

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